Tuesday, April 16, 2013

When are you going to grow up?

I have a bad habit of going out the night before a race. Races are on weekends, and well, weekends generally have things going on besides races.

Brief anecdote on the title: I was standing in line at packet pickup the day before a sprint triathlon, and in line I saw one of my friends and his wife. We talked about our race strategy, and how we were planning on spending the night. The wife jumped in and said, “We are going to have a lovely dinner at Adam’s parents house. What are you going to do?” I explained that my friend was graduating that day, and that I was going to go out with him, and then crash on his couch, and make it to the race the next morning. Her retort-“When are you going to grow up and start taking racing seriously!?”

I am not sure if I have grown up. Case in point: the Oakland Half Marathon.

The night before the Oakland Half, a friend of mine who works for 21st Amendment Brewery was having an event at a cafĂ© in Berkeley. I decided to go, and have a beer. That beer turned into a beer and a hamburger, and then a beer, a hamburger, and an ice cream sandwich.  Best pre race meal ever? Definitely. Until the next morning.

Race morning, I woke up and I knew that my stomach was in trouble.

Something one may not consider that actually takes some planning prior to race morning is when you are going to go to the bathroom prior to a race. You generally want to have everything out of system prior to starting, so that you don’t have to take any pit stops. At races, you generally have large lines in the minutes leading up to the race outside of the portapotties as athletes try to get their business done. I try to avoid these lines, as you can be standing there for a while, waiting to use, well, a portapotty.

With my stomach making noise, I made my way to the race, and noticed that the race organizers had lots of porta potties. Always a good thing. Unfortunately, my stomach being screwed up meant that I would be waiting in line, and hopefully not impact the race. Fortunately, I made my way to the front of the line with plenty of time, with the only consequence being a little dehydrated.

After paying my dues for the night before, I got into the corral for people who would be trying to run 7 minute miles. Slower than I think I could go, but my coach hadn’t given me an easy week, and I had rode a couple hours with a high school friend the day before (the reason why I wanted a beer, a burger and an ice cream sandwich). Also, this was going to be my first half marathon that wasn’t in a half ironman (only done one of those), and I was really unsure of how to pace the race.

After a message from the mayor, the race started. The first 6 miles went by no problem. I generally take the strategy of letting people go by me for the first bit, and then try to pull them back. Mentally for me, it is hard to get passed at the end of the race. I let a couple of groups get about a minute ahead of me, and starting at mile three, I decided it was time to push the tempo. Through the first 6 miles-38:30. 6:30 pace. So much for that seven minute pace.

I felt comfortable, and I had started to pull back the groups. I was running by myself, so I latched on to some guy who looked like he knew what he was doing, and we chatted for a bit. I find that when I talk to the other athletes, I don’t notice how much discomfort I am in. I don’t remember his name, but he was training for the Boston Marathon, and this was his final hard training run. I hope he made it through safely.

After chatting for a bit, my side tightened up, and I told the guy that he was on his own. He offered words of encouragement, but my pace slowed. From miles 7-8.5, I went from a 6:30 pace to above a 7 minute pace.  I had a goal of finishing in about 1:26-1:28, and that was slipping away. At the next aid station, I forced down a piece of banana, a gel, and two cups of liquid.

By mile 9, my cramp had loosened up, and I buckled down. I knew that if I could put down a couple miles at 6:15, I could get back on pace. By mile ten, my legs were cruising. I hit the marker at just above 1:05. Right back at pace, and I started to see the guy who had left me behind with the cramp.

Now, before the report ends, you must understand something about the course for the half: it is pancake flat, which is awesome. It is also through the streets of Oakland, where there are an infinite number of potholes, which is not awesome. Immediately after hitting mile 10, I rolled my ankle. The moment of excitement that I had gotten back on pace went immediately to a moment of fear-how would I finish the last three miles?

According to urban legend, when you roll your ankle, you are supposed to keep your shoe on until you can get ice on it. That thought went through my head, so I tried to run for another 200 yards and realized if I sucked it up and quit being such a pansy, I could finish.

The next three miles flew by. The pain in my ankle went down, and the race finishes around Lake Merritt, which I have run countless times. I knew exactly how fast I was going, how much faster I needed to go to catch the next person, and I started to pull back more runners. The last mile I was just at 6 minute pace, and I hit the finish line with a time of 1:24:21.

My mom and sister were at the finish-the perks of being home. I gave them a hug, cheered on my friends, and cursed my decision to run the race after going out the night before.

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